What It Comes Down To: The Pitch Conference After Action Report

canstockphoto411034For months, I’ve been eating, dreaming, walking through this pitch conference. I’d never been to a writing conference of any sort, and have long eschewed workshops and book clubs, and lived in my make-believe land of being a writer. This is the first concrete step I’d ever taken to make it real. And it was a great step. That I’ll likely never do again.

There are writers who remain oblivious to the market, to the numbers, to the sheer complexity and enormity of their dreams. They constantly send out work and occasionally hit their mark. There are writers like me who are painfully aware of the odds, see the enormity of the task before them and tell themselves someday. When I am ready. When I have time.

So here I am, almost 50 years old, trying to launch a writing career. I laugh using the word “launch”. More like a slow crawl, an inch worm’s speed. Talk to any writer who seems to be an overnight success and odds are, they’ve been doing a slow crawl for years. No one saw them, no one lauded their work, no one sharpened their pencils or handed them a guide.

Parts of the conference were the expected breakout sessions on querying and selling, but what most people came for was the golden ticket of being able to meet with three literary agents and/or editors for 8 minutes each to pitch their work. I researched and submitted my preferences in advance and ended up with two I’d requested and a last minute replacement I knew would not be a fit.

I wrote 50+ pitches in advance, talked to friends about the book, read all the advice articles on pitching, bought a suit and showed up on time. I came away with two requests for partials (10-50 first pages) and a full manuscript request. When I saw who my replacement agent would be, I did a nonfiction book proposal on the fly and she said they’d be interested in seeing my full proposal.

This was an optimum outcome for me. But what does it really mean?

It means that I know how to talk under pressure. Yay me. The last workshop I sat in for the day was about debut mistakes. Two local, established writers talked about their experiences and took questions. A moment of clarity hit me. I’m done being at a conference. These people had been working their asses off for years – around marriages, divorces, children, jobs, setbacks and personal demons. But what mattered to the writing was the writing.

This weekend was an important reminder to me. I can talk knowledgeably about the market and publishing of books. I could even become a writing advice blogger. I can pitch the hell out of my work. But it’s all bullshit. And manure only has value and meaning if there is something to nourish and nurture. I got caught up in the dressing, while the body was being neglected.

So, it’s back to work – reading, writing, editing, revising. It’s nice to know I have some people who’d be interested in seeing my work, but that was always the case – if the work was good. So back to making it as good as it can be.

 

21 Comments on “What It Comes Down To: The Pitch Conference After Action Report

  1. Kudos to you. I hope you have some recovery time planned.

    So, you’ve been there, done that. As a kindred introvert, I hope for your sake that this is the last conference. You’ve done the necessary distasteful work and put yourself into uncomfortable environment.

    IMO, given that most writers are introverts, it surprises me that events of this sort are so opposite of what we would choose for ourselves. Then again, if it were up to an introvert to organize and host a conference, it wouldn’t get off the ground!

    Tell me – if you hadn’t done this conference, would your chances of being published be slimmer? That is, is there a certain “validity” placed on these conferences that allows attendees to have an advantage over those who choose or can not attend?

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    • The validity is that if you send something that you say they requested at this conference, you move up their list. That being said, my criminal mind immediately thought anyone could say that. The agents are hearing a hundred plus pitches at this thing and will hardly remember any one pitch.

      With that in mind, though, it still means the work has to be good for any results. For me, it forced me to define not only my work, but my ambition, so I regard the experience as being positive, but only from a personal development perspective.

      I wrote this post as a way of letting other writers know it’s not an undue advantage, especially for someone like me who researches everything heavily and was aware of a lot of the market issues. If you want to pitch and submit, you still need to research the agents, learn how to write queries and follow submission guidelines to the letter. All of that information is online.

      That being said, it was a great environment to hang out with other writers, if that’s your thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the link to the Elvis song at the bottom. I’m not usually a fan, but this translation of ‘Satisfy Me’ certainly strikes the right chord to your piece. That, and it reminded me of one of my favorite game shows as a kid: Hollywood Squares. I loved Paul Lynde’s humor–even if I didn’t always get the adult-level jokes.

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  3. To me, this is the crux. If I’m not writing just plain because I want and need to write, then what am I doing it for? Tons of smarter and more talented people are out there doing the hard stuff of making a living at their art. If I’m making art of any of my favorite kinds just because I feel I must or should, the pleasure payoff is lessened proportionally by the demand—guess I’m just an introverted rebel, the commonest and dullest kind, and all the more reason for me to shut up and just keep self-publishing.

    It matters little if anybody hears this tree fall but the tree herself—I can make hard copy enough for my audience of one to hang on the walls and stuff in my bookshelves, and as long as that’s the validation I need, I’m probably not coming out of my hermitage to go to conferences. Cheers to you for braving it!! Sounds to me like you got all that you needed from going, no matter what you do or don’t put into play afterward, and I kinda feel like you’ve taken one for the team by reporting it here, so maybe you and I both benefit! Thanks for another insight and inspiration.

    Kathryn

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    • I find that people who write are motivated by a wide range of reasons. While I love to write, would do it regardless of reward, I am at the point that I want to start getting my work out there and get paid for it. But yes, the intrinsic reasons should already be in place and sometimes that is all a writer needs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. From the cheap seats, all your realizations are valid. Still, this WAS an important step. I remember how long it took to find an agent, how long it took to get a publisher to look at my work. It all felt out of my control, taking place in a murky world I couldn’t crack no matter how much I researched.

    Get those 50 pages polished and SENT.

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  5. I totally get what you’re saying, I’m a sucker for researching, learning, blogging, reviewing , connecting (just look at what I’m doing right now) but it all gets a bit meaningless without actually knuckling down and WRITING something 😀

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  6. Interesting conclusion. I know a few people who have written books that were published. To a one they had an “in” with an agent or publisher that had nothing to do with their books. They just knew the right people, which is why I’ve never even thought of trying to find an agent. I never seem to know the right people, but now you do– so go for it.

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    • I don’t consider this an in – not a single one of those agents will remember me. One thing I learned is that as complicated as the publishing industry can be, having an agent is a good thing. There’s too much of a learning curve for most of us – one that is flattened by having someone in the know advocate for you. We’ll see. I still have work to do and risks to take.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I agree that you don’t have an “in” like all the people who I know did. But you give me hope that someone who doesn’t have an “in” can still succeed. That’s what I was trying to say.

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  7. This is great news. Confirmation comes in many forms. Just when you’ve perfected your pitch, the work speaks for itself. Go figure! I’m glad it was a positive experience.

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    • Thanks, Honie. It was interesting, too, to talk with many writers who, like you, self-published. It seems the up and coming thing is now independent presses, some of which are growing at the rate at which the big five publishing houses are declining. It’s actually a pretty good time to be a writer, with so many options. But I need to shove all the info into my mental archives and get back to work!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never attended a pitch conference like this, so as a fellow introvert, I found your take on it interesting. I’m still curious about attending a few, if only because I never get out of the house!

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    • I think it’s always worth a try and I would guess conferences vary in regards to their usefulness. For me, I’m just at a particular point where I feel like I’ve spent more time playing at being a writer than being one, and this conference was a nudge for me to get back to work.

      By the way, I did meet quite a few other introverts who were enjoying themselves – likely happy to be out of the house as well!

      Like

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